The Assault on Christ's Eternal
Salvation (Pt. 4)
By William Handschumacher
A Special Rock of Offence Commentary
This is Part 4 of a six-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
A False Anti-Grace Theology
vs New Covenant Grace
One of the problems we face in this study is attempting to expose a dangerous heresy that operates under many different names and labels. Due to its remarkable power to deceive, God saw fit to provide a warning in Acts chapter 15 - and later added more details in Saint Paul's "Epistle to the Galatians". These New Testament writings discuss a "master template" that most future heresies would follow ... rather than attempting to address each one individually.
We are first introduced to this "master template" in Acts chapter 15 through a group of ministers referred to as "believing Pharisees". They demanded that Paul change his gospel message of Grace to include circumcision and obedience to Old Testament Law - which would effectively invalidate the Grace by which we are saved. This forced the entire Apostolic leadership of the early church to meet in Jerusalem to consider the matter ... and is often referred to by theologians as ...
"The First Jerusalem
Their job was to examine whether it was legal and Scriptural to add the works and obedience of Old Testament Law (this includes the Ten Commandments) - to Grace. But, they soon discovered that this act, which looks and sounds good on the surface--actually produces a corrupt brand of theology that is "Anti-Grace" ... which ultimately cancels true New Testament Grace.
"And if by Grace, then it is no longer of works; OTHERWISE GRACE IS NO LONGER GRACE. But if it is of works, IT IS NO LONGER GRACE; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)
"You have become estranged (separated or cut-off) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; YOU HAVE FALLEN FROM GRACE." (Galatians 5:4)
As a result of these facts, the Council condemned this "pharisaical anti-grace doctrine" that illegally mixed Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace together.
(Important Note: Additional information about how this anti-grace doctrine found its way into the modern-day Christian Church can be found later in the section entitled; "Final Comments".)
According to the New Testament - we receive God's gift of eternal life (salvation) only by Grace through faith. Since the Bible states that receiving salvation rests on Grace, we should know how God defines this word. By performing an in-depth study, we learn that Grace is ... the unmerited and undeserved favor of God that frees us from the consequences of all sin - past, present and future. Some Bible scholars refer to it as "free Grace". As a result - Grace exempts the Christian from all of God's judgment concerning sin - both now and forever. The New Testament reveals that this produces "liberty and freedom" ... and allows the Christian to have total assurance of salvation - which was not available under the Old Testament program.
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)
This "special type of Grace" is not something that our Heavenly Father just decided to do because He was in a good mood. It was made possible when His Son took our sins on Himself - and paid the entire penalty "for us" through the blood of His cross. Due to Christ's full payment for all human sin [past-present-future] - this special type of Grace becomes a "legally binding" characteristic of the New covenant that now permanently governs how God relates to all believing Christians regardless of their moral state.
As a result ... and contrary to popular church teachings, God no longer uses the Old Covenant (or Old Testament program) when relating with His children - but considers it to be obsolete (See Hebrews 8:6-13). Since the blood of Jesus now makes a full payment for all human sin [past-present-future], God (as a "Just Judge") is now legally obligated to treat all believing Christians "as if they had never sinned" ... even when they do sin. Therefore, it is an act of injustice (and a denial of Christ's sin-cleansing blood) if God continues to hold a Christian's sin against them (or charge sin to their account) ... after the penalty for all human sin was paid for. This is a New covenant benefit known as "Free Justification" ... only available to those who are "in Christ" - as described in the following Scriptures:
"...Being justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)
"Therefore, IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATION; OLD THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY; BEHOLD, ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW. Now all things are of God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES (SINS) TO THEM, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
"For He made Him who knew no sin TO BE SIN FOR US, THAT WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Once again - and contrary to popular legalistic church teachings, this special type of Grace and its "free justification" is directly connected to salvation under the new redemptive program of Christ (also called "the New Covenant") ... which could not operate under the previous Old Testament program. Since this special program of Grace that comes only through Christ is such good news; the book of Hebrews gives this warning :
"....How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. (Hebrews 2:3)
However, some Christians are surprised to learn that a popular first century "anti-grace theology", existing in countless different denominational variants and off-shoots, rules a majority (but thankfully not all) of the world-wide Christian Church. One would think that everyone would joyfully embrace the freedom that Grace brings to the Christian believer. Yet, this is certainly not the case. Those who follow and embrace this anti-grace agenda are secretly angered when they see Christians living in the freedom and liberty provided by Christ's "great salvation".
As a result, they tirelessly work to undo or discredit this liberty. They use out-of-context Scripture - mainly taken from the Old Testament - as a dishonest, yet convincing way to argue that this "liberty" (or eternal freedom from sin) actually represents "false grace" ... or what some choose to call; "Hyper-Grace". If this anti-grace effort is allowed to succeed, the freedoms are removed ... and replaced with and Old Testament form of religious bondage that God rejects.
REMINDER: Since there are so many different names and labels connected to the "doctrine of the believing Pharisees" (a heresy) recorded in Acts chapter 15 ... we identify it in this study as; "Pharisaical Anti-Grace Theology". (The word 'Pharisaical' simply means "of the Pharisees") Although they are described as "beliving Pharisees" (meaning they claim to have "faith in Christ"), Acts chapter 15 exposes their faith as misguided and false ... because they attempt to mix Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace together - as many churches and denominations do today. Mixing Law (or works) and Grace together - cancels the Grace on which Christ's salvation is based ... which is why various Bible scholars label this doctrine as "Anti-Grace".
The Apostle Paul reports one
such confrontation with this
"...And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you." (Galatians 2:4-5)
Notice that Paul referred to these individuals as "false brethren" - or false Christians. On the surface, their doctrine appears to be based on Scripture. But the Scripture they use is lifted from the context where God placed it - and applied in a way He never intended. In such situations, the teaching does not represent true faith in Christ. Yet, the listening audience or congregation often fails to discern this important contextual error ... which unknowingly makes their salvation questionable. As a result, some Bible scholars refer to this group (and its doctrine) as; "Christian in name only". But despite this fact, many in the world-wide Christian Church embrace various expressions of this same theology. Some Bible research groups estimate that more than 8 out of 10 churches are affected. As a result, this is not some kind of minor "fringe problem" as some would have us believe.
As a review, let's notice the
contrast between true New
Covenant Grace - and the
false Pharisaical Anti-Grace
theology that dominates many
sectors of the world-wide
TRUE NEW COVENANT GRACE provides salvation as God's unmerited and undeserved gift that requires no works or special behavior. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:4-8)
BUT, PHARISAICAL ANTI-GRACE DOCTRINE adds good works and various kinds of Old Testament "Law Keeping" as requirements to obtain and keep Christ's salvation ... making God's gift meaningless and nonsensical.
TRUE NEW COVENANT GRACE provides the Christian with an unshakable assurance of salvation, knowing that God's gift will never be revoked; despite their failure to live up to His standards. (Romans 11:29, Romans 6:14, Romans 4:4-8)
BUT, PHARISAICAL ANTI-GRACE DOCTRINE removes any assurance of salvation, because it teaches that God will revoke salvation if our good works or obedience to Old Testament Law (which is often a reference to the "Ten Commandments") is lacking. Since this is a condition that cannot be known - the result is a failure to have any assurance of salvation.
TRUE NEW COVENANT GRACE allows the Christian to know that their salvation is guaranteed by the "sealing of the Holy Spirit", which remains in force forever. (John 14:16-17, Ephesians 1:13-14)
BUT, PHARISAICAL ANTI-GRACE DOCTRINE embraces the Old Testament model of salvation ... where the Holy Spirit does not "remain forever", but will leave whenever sin is committed.
This is Part 4 of a six-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
Return To Home Page
Return To Basics of Salvation Page